COFFEE PRODUCTION IN THE PAST
Mexico’s relationship with coffee, as with many of the central American countries, dates back to the 1700's. And yes, you guessed it, the coffee plants were brought into the country by colonists, in this case the Spanish who brought it over from Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
However, due to the fact that the regions of the country are rich to mineral deposits, the mining opportunities presented at the time outweighed the development of the coffee industry. Up to that point, coffee was grown on farms owned by the European colonists, with the indigenous Mexicans being used for labour (no surprise there unfortunately and if you’ve read my previous blogs, you will see how this is a common theme when it comes to coffee production throughout history).
The late 1800's saw the industry gradually taking hold, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century when independence brought with it the redistribution of farms. This in turn helped smallholder farmers, particularly indigenous farmers, to emerge within the industry.
INSTITUTO MEXICANO DEL CAFÉ (INMECAFE) AND THE COFFEE CRISIS
The latter part of the 20th century was when the government established the INMECAFE. This was established as a regulatory agency providing not only technical and financial (credit) assistance to farmers, but it also tried to keep coffee prices high and stable in the market. It also made efforts to integrate new land into coffee cultivation which increased coffee production immensely.
Unfortunately, INMECAFE was a fleeting ‘event’ and was dissolved back in 1989. This coincided with the additional dissolvement of the ICA (International Coffee Agreement). The ICA was created back in 1962 and was a protocol for maintaining quotas for the exporting countries and keeping coffee prices high and stable in the market. This created a coffee crisis where coffee was overproduced but coffee prices fell continuously due to the lack of management.
Coffee production declined in the next years and Mexico’s coffee crisis increased between 1999-2003 and by the end of 2005 Mexico’s coffee export shipments were at their lowest. Obviously, the impact this had on the people and the farmers was immense. Coffee production decreased and what was left, had the obvious quality issues due to the farmers’ inability to look after their crops properly due to lack of funds (significantly lower income).
COFFEE PRODUCTION NOW – THE FUTURE
It’s not all doom and gloom and as always, out bad situations come lessons, solutions, and changes for the better. This is true for Mexico’s coffee industry too and the 21st century brought with it change. It brought with it the establishment of small farmer cooperatives democratically run with a huge focus on fair trading, sustainability, and affordability. The cooperatives began to share information between on organic processes and in achieving Organic and Fairtrade certifications.
Now, Mexico has a strong trade link between north and central America with a strong portfolio of food (including coffee), beverages, tobacco, iron steel to name just a few. It has a strong domestic consumption of coffee and therefore consumes around 50% of all the coffee it grows, exporting the remainder 50%.
MEXICO’S COFFEE and OUR COFFEE
Mexico is now considered one of the pioneers for certified coffees and Fairtrade and Organic are common. Mexico’s topography and regional microclimates are excellent conditions for growing coffee. Most of the coffee in Mexico is grown in the regions of Chiapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca producing both Robusta and Arabica coffees. These regions produce coffees that are mild/medium bodied with a mild acidity. They can be quite complex though with a mix of fruity, nutty, and chocolate notes.
Our coffee comes from the Chiapas region which is on the Guatemalan border. The altitude here (1,200-1,800 masl) produces not only some of Mexico’s best coffees but also produces around 40% of the country’s total crop.
The excitement with this coffee we are showcasing, is due to the fact that this coffee, like our Kenyan coffee, is from the Regional Select program our importers have created to showcase the best coffees of a region and highlight their unique profiles. The coffees chosen for this coffee are all from the Chiapas region and are based on quality with a selection of coffees that cup between 83-85 (on the 100-point cupping scale) and makes them speciality grade coffees.
IN THE CUP: Mild with a cocoa flavour and a nutty aftertaste